Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – B’reishit

Baruch sh’amar vayah ha-olam baruch hu! Blessed is the one who spoke and the world came into being. According to tradition, God created with speech. No skilled craftsperson, no artisan, no forced labor: the elements responded directly to God’s speech.

Certainly a metaphor, but if we look at it in depth, we find that God’s first command was to bring enlightenment out of chaos. First, chaos (tohu v’vohu) reigned. God’s first words responded to the chaos and brought order: “Let there be light!” Immediately, before the sun, the moon, or the stars – light emerged from the darkness. Talmud teaches us that this episode speaks of the emergence of intelligence from ignorance or enlightenment from darkness.

One can easily understand the process of growing from darkness to light. What is hard to understand is the regression from enlightenment to darkness and a willful blindness. One cannot read scripture and fail to see the struggle of faith with which each character wrestles. We can see that with each such round, as people become more aware of their responsibility to each other, their lot in life improves and the news of peace becomes more tangible.

How do we expect the world to heal, if we spend so much energy fighting each other? Have we returned to toho v’vohu?

Ultimately, we have to ask why we are here. Are we on earth for conquest? Can we only save the world by destroying half of it? Is it evil to disagree? Can we ever be whole if our neighbor suffers?

The Late Lubavitcher Rebbe (Menachem Schneerson) taught us, “‘Let there be light’ was the first statement in Creation, because ‘light’ is the true purpose of existence: through the study of Torah and the fulfilment of mitzvot, divine radiance is revealed.

‘Light’ is the purpose of existence as a whole. Further, each individual is a microcosm of the world. ‘Light’ is therefore the purpose of each Jew: that he or she transforms his or her situation and environment from darkness and negativity to light and goodness.”

If religion has anything to say in the future of society’s well-being, it needs to rethink its need to own God over another religion’s ownership or to speak with absolutes as to what God wants or demands. None of us own God. Reading the same scriptures, people disagree as to the teachings we derive. Scripture was never intended to serve as an absolute – rather it begins study and conversation. Each of us is supposed to experience our own divine “I and Thou” relationship with God and if your answers for your life are different than mine are for mine – that is ok. A human being telling another human that he/she is outside of God is the ultimate of blasphemy and serves only to destroy the light and enlightenment and return us to chaos.

We now have people vowing to do violence after whichever side wins the next election. I always thought that enlightened people worked together to solve problems. Our founders built this governmental system with checks and balances intended to force us to figure out how to work together to best serve this country. On the brink of what could be disastrous for interpersonal security and relationships, we need to take a step back and return to light.

Shabbat Shalom.